Last year, we bought a child-sized bike and removed the pedals. My three-year-old has been using it as a push bike (a.k.a. balance bike, run bike, or scooter) and learning how to balance. The plan is that once she's ready, I'll put the pedals back on, but I won't be adding training wheels. However, I don't want to put the pedals back on before she's really ready because it would be a pain to take them back off again.

She's now at the point where she can coast for about five seconds at a time, but she doesn't ride in a particularly straight line. She often asks for pedals, though I'm sure she doesn't appreciate the effort that will be required.

How do I know when she's ready and it's time to put the pedals back on the bike? What specific goal can I give her to work towards (i.e., "When you can do XYZ, then you can have pedals")?

Related question: What is the best method to teach a young child to ride?

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    So how did it go? Is your daughter now a keen cyclist with her own account here on Bicycles.SE? :-) Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 8:36
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    She loves going on 1-2 mile rides around the neighborhood and occasional 5+ mile rides. Her gears help with the 5% and higher grades, but she prefers to walk up our street, which has a 15% grade.
    – amcnabb
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 9:08

5 Answers 5


I did the same thing for my son when he was 2. After a year and a half, he just "looked" ready. I knew he could ride so I had him try pedaling. I have a short hill in the front yard and put him near the bottom. He was determined to NOT ride properly, so after about 25 feet he "fell" off and said "SEE!! I can't do it!" I laughed and said, "You did it almost all the way across the yard!" Just then his mom came out and asked him to show her, and he jumped up and rode for a few minuets all by himself.

I made sure that the seat was set so that he could easily touch the ground with both feet at the same time so that if he got nervous he could just stand up, but it never got to that point. He was 3.5 years and my girl was 3.75 years when they both learned to ride (I was a few weeks short of being 8 when I learned)

I don't think there is any magic rule to guide yourself with, just look at her confidence and let that be your guide. Make sure she can touch both feet on the ground at the same time, and it really shouldn't be much different than what she is doing now.

(PS: If you do put the cranks on and she just can not do it, you can always just take the pedals off rather than the whole crank set, that will save a lot of time!)

You can see the video of him a few months after he learned to ride at youtube here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=fnb7uhC1J2Q

A few months BEFORE he learned to ride: http://youtube.com/watch?v=jfrz0Q6I_rw

at age 8 when he learned a "Nothing": http://youtube.com/watch?v=CdOfmWYt9FQ

My girl when she learned: http://youtube.com/watch?v=vP6qio6LS78

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    I laughed when I read "SEE!! I can't do it!" - my boys were exactly the same, and did exactly the same when Mum got home, so it wasn't just me.......
    – mattnz
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 22:54

I have no experience with kids in that age, but I think the most important skill she can have is to cover a large enough distance without stepping the ground.

How much is "enough" is debatable, but there is sort of a "qualitative" difference between running with the aid of a scooter (long, but predictable, consecutive steps), and giving the scooter some momentum and then "gliding" with it while the legs do nothing.

This "do-nothing" phase, where the scooter is going balanced and well-controlled, and the kid has to lift/spred her legs so that they do not interfere, is a sign (in my opinion, be noted!) that she requires the pedals, either to rest her feet, or mostly to keep the bike going FOREVER!

Hope that helps.


I found this article particularly enlightening.

The short takeaway is that balance is the most important thing (before direction) Keep going until the balance is good and everything else will follow.

My wife and I are discussing at the moment the best time to get our kids onto balance bikes.

  • Could you expand on how you know whether the balance is good? With children, good balance is all relative. :)
    – amcnabb
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 2:23
  • I guess that when you are applying metrics to their 'readiness' balance should be more heavily weighted than anything else, 'cause without balance you can't have direction. Good is up to your tolerance as a parent for letting your children discover pain :)
    – Byron Ross
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 6:11
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    +ByronRoss The parent's tolerance for the child's pain is a very interesting insight.
    – amcnabb
    Commented May 8, 2013 at 14:51

To me, sounds like your kid is ready. It can be more difficult to steer the bike straight without pedals so I would not read too much into that. So go ahead and try the pedals.

If your child has to much trouble pedaling (intimidated, not having fun), then I'd suggest moving to a spot with a minor gradient and point the bike down hill to make the coasting easier.

For my daughter, 5, it helps to do a 'race' where I would start next to her and say ready, set, go. Try that a few times just coasting then gradually build up the speed. My daughter does not like to lose so she pedals and forgets about fears. As your child gets better, add cones that she must steer around and so forth.

Hope this helps!


At the age of 4 or more, when the child is confident with keeping balance on a 2 wheel scooter like this

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    Children can develop at very different speeds so any kind of answer based on age isn't a good one. Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 8:35
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    A stand up scooter like that is not mimicking the motion of a bike. Instead, I'd suggest a balance bike, and when the young rider can glide a good distance then its time to try switching it up.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 4, 2017 at 10:16

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